Mrs. Biodun Bello is the Administrator of Wholistic Outreach, a pet project of the wife of the General Overseer of the Redeem Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Folu Adeboye, with the aim of rehabilitating commercial sex workers, destitute, rescuing stranded and homeless girls, among others. In this interview with ENIOLA DANIEL, the coordinator spoke on parenting, how the mission is rescuing the destitute and what government can do to discourage the social vice.
When did you start Wholistic Outreach and what are the things it set out to achieve?
WHOLISTIC Outreach was established in 2002 by our mother-in-Israel, Pastor (Mrs) Folu Adeboye. It’s a home to cater to commercial sex workers, trafficked girls, and stranded teenagers, restoring their lives and giving them hope. To the glory of God, we achieve this through rehabilitation.
We have a team lead by Mrs. Kemi Aaredokun Richard, and we go out on a weekly basis to brothels and other places to rescue the girls. And we go anywhere they give us the opportunity to minister and tell them about the Love of God and if the manager of the place permits us, after then, we hold special outreach where we go with our medical team and food. And once they come out, we have a shelter home, which we call the first point of entry. They spend a minimum of three months and maximum of six months in the shelter home. We have various programmes for them, they fast, they pray and they go for different programmes including deliverance in Hallelujah House; after that, we reconcile them to their families.
After preaching to them and they accept to follow us, we take them to the police station to record them that they are with us because we don’t want to go against the law, and we sign them out when they are going back to their family. Some go back to their families while the families release others back to us.
What category of people do you rehabilitate?
We deal with girls from age 13 to 38; sometimes we have girls below that age. We send some of them back to school.
Can you tell us how many girls have been rehabilitated since inception and is the Outreach only for rehabilitation of trafficked girls and sex workers?
We have rehabilitated hundreds of girls. Wholistic is mainly for commercial sex workers but we have some girls that ran away from home and are staying under the bridges.
What have been the challenges of changing the orientation of these women to embrace a decent lifestyle?
The challenges are two-fold. We don’t just go to hotels and bring them out; they must be willing before we rehabilitate them. We go there and tell them that there is a better place for them, so we leave after telling and sharing with them. They come out on their own free will.
The challenges mostly are that when they come, some of them get tired and want to go back. Some of them would say they have sex urges and feel like sleeping with men whether they want to pay or not, but that’s why we have counselors, people that stay and pray with them. It’s not something you can stop all of a sudden. Most of the girls don’t really want to go into prostitution; you will be surprised to see some of them are the ones taking care of their family needs.
How do these brothel managers react whenever you visit?
The Bible says that you cannot go to a strong man’s house without binding him. We go in the name of Jesus Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit. Most of the managers do give their lives to Christ. The manager of the last brothel we visited in Shagamu said he doesn’t want to do the job anymore. One of the girls got married in August. We have lawyers and many who have passed through Universities and are doing well among the rescued.
African parents have been accused of not paying the same level of attention they pay on the female child to the male child, why is Wholistic doing the same rather than focusing on both genders?
RCCG has a home for boys and we call it Habitation of Hope, we have another home for the drug addicts. Presently, we have 48 girls in our home and some of them have children, we have a girl who has been with us since junior secondary school and now she is the University.
What do you do after releasing some of these girls to their parents and they return to the streets because their parents cannot cater to them?
If their parents can’t take care of them, they release them back to us. There are some of these girls from wealthy backgrounds, but they turned into prostitutes. Just like the crime rate in the country is on the rise, it’s the economy that makes some of them do what they do. Some of them follow their aunties to the city without knowing what they’re doing in the city. When the parents cannot take care of their children and one big aunty drives to the village in a big car, they allow their children to follow her; some even take them abroad for prostitution.
You mentioned that some of these girls come from a rich background, what could actually have pushed them into prostitution?
It’s unfortunate that some of our parents are wealthy in resources but don’t really have time for their families. Some may be due to peer pressure.
Picking up a girl as young as 13-year-old off the streets shows how bad the situation is, how do you feel seeing these girls?
You will be surprised to see an 11-year-old on the streets. Some of the commercial sex workers have children in the brothels, many of them give birth in the brothel. A little girl was brought here after she was molested, they destroyed her private part, we treated her and now she’s in JSS1.
We call them daughters in our home, so we sit together and talk and mummy G.O also pays them a visit.
Can you tell us how much you spend on each person monthly?
I can’t give that but I know how much we spend monthly. We spend over N2million monthly, aside from that, we go to mummy G.O to get foodstuff. The mission gives us money on a quarterly basis and she gives us money every month to cater for the needs of the girls.
Do you partner with other NGOs?
This is not about RCCG alone; we just came back from training in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. We have other NGOs that even if my home is filled up, I can call other people to accommodate them.
Based on your experience, what would be your advice to parents and society at large?
Parents must find time for their children; everything cannot be solved with money. We have a girl in our home whose grandfather was molesting her and we got involved, the grandma said, “baba was just playing with her,” after he was caught.
Parents must learn to visit their children in school unannounced. And our daughters must not think everything must be achieved now, they must look at the future, they must know that the sky is just a starting point.